Upcoming UN Climate Summit may, with luck, bring lasting global changes
Veterans Day in Europe is often called Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. It is specifically the remembering of the end of the Great War. In many communities Laurence Binyon’s poem “For the Fallen” is read: “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”
We will remember November 2015 for many reasons. As world citizens we will remember the deaths of over a hundred people in Paris in an act of brutal terrorism. As Americans we will remember President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, a much awaited decision by climate activists, including five of us from Iowa City who were arrested outside the White House in protest of the pipeline in August 2011. And as Iowans we will remember the over 100 Iowans who testified at the IUB hearing in opposition to the proposed pipeline that would run Bakken oil from North Dakota diagonally across 18 counties in order to make more money for a Texasbased oil company There is a much anticipated event yet to come: the United Nations Climate Summit to be held in Paris Nov. 29 through Dec.11. Those of us who have been hoping for decision and action at previous world climate talks have been sorely disappointed, but there are reasons to hope that this one will be different. It is the last chance for the world to make reasonable first steps toward keeping global warming under 3 degrees Celsius, a degree higher than the agreed-upon temperature for a relatively stable climate.
A big reason to hope, however, is that this is the first time the U.S. has made significant strides in leadership on this issue. The Clean Power Plan, proposed by President Obama, and the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline are part of that leadership. So is the carefully negotiated agreement with China to reduce greenhouse gases, as well as the falling cost of wind and solar energy and the commitments of many business leaders to move toward renewable energy. Other nations have made serious commitments as well. Our efforts would be even more effective if our Congress did the one best thing that would reduce greenhouse gases in our atmosphere — and that is pass carbon fee and dividend legislation.
One hundred ninety-five countries will have their leaders and scientists present in Paris, and up to a million people are expected to attend. Those of us who will watch and witness from afar will be praying for the success of the negotiations among these nations, and also for the safety of those in attendance.
I was glad that Sen. Sanders reminded us of the connection between terrorism and the climate crisis during the presidential debates on Saturday evening. The situation in Syria started deteriorating when crops failed due to drought related to climate change and people did not have access to food. Hungry people can quickly become violent people, and the thin veneer of civilization that we count on to keep a world stable quickly cracks.
The Pentagon says that climate change is our biggest threat to national security. There are 60 million climate refugees right now. Unaddressed climate issues will make our whole world less stable as more people are driven out of their homes by drought, floods or rising sea level.
We have much at stake in Paris this month. May there be something good to remember. May we be dancing in the streets.
The Rev. Barbara Schlachter is a founding member of 100 Grannies for a Livable Future and a member of the Iowa City Climate Advocates, which is part of the Citizens Climate Lobby, a national group urging Congress to pass a carbon fee and dividend.